As many of you know, I used to live in the Bay Area, which enabled me to visit Napa and Sonoma rather easily. Now, even though I live on the East Coast, I still get out there at least a couple of times a year since my wife’s parents live in the East Bay.
So this, coupled with the writing of this blog, makes me some sort of “expert” in the eyes of some (I refuse to comment on the relative intelligence of those who see me thusly). As a result, just about any time someone I know goes to Wine Country, they ask me for advice as to where to go when out there. At first it would happen every now and again, but as this blog gets more a few more eyeballs on it, the number of such inquiries increases steadily. I do not mind such requests, but they do take a bit of time to address.
If I were smart (big ”if”), I would have a list of wineries that I “endorse” and adapt it slightly for each request. I am not sure that it would save me all that much time, but seeing that I have never even attempted such an approach, I figure I should not knock it before I had at least tried it.
To that end, I have decided to adopt yet another new resolution of sorts, and keep a more current list of wineries to visit up there in the menu at the top of the page (under “Wineries”—pretty clever title, I know).
At least that is my plan.
My first act regarding this new resolution, is to update the Napa and Sonoma pages with two new favorites, Cornerstone and J Vineyards. Even though both wineries have been around for a while, it was not until I started blogging (and they sent me a few samples, to be perfectly honest), that I really took notice.
Cornerstone, located in Yountville (not far from any of the Thomas Keller trio of restaurants there), has an impressive line-up of wines, but I think they particularly excel in their Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc. They recently sent me a bottle of each of the first two, from their Stepping Stone line:
2012 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Franc Stepping Stone (Black Label): Retail $45. Deep violet with a nose of blackberries and violets, but very tight initially. After some time, though, the wine brightened up and showed impressive depth and chalky tannins. This is just a baby and will need some time in the cellar—it clearly needs a year or two, but could benefit from up to 5-8 years. Now? Very Good to Outstanding, 89-91 Points. In a couple of years, easily in the 91-94 Range.
2012 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Stepping Stone (Black Label): Retail $45. This one was impressive right out of the bottle–effusive raspberry and cassis and a hint of strawberry jam. On the palate, I immediately knew this was something special, but also knew it will only get better. This is one of the reasons I really love Cornerstone–the wines tend to show well early, but also will improve with more time in the bottle. This one is oh-so-good right now with fruit and depth, but also plenty of tannins on the backend. This is a wine to buy by the case–drink some now and celebrate the fruit, and save the other half to drink over the next decade at least and revel in the complexity. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
The second winery that I am adding to the list is J Vineyards in Healdsburg (Sonoma County). I have actually never visited the winery (even though I have ridden a bike past it several times), but I hope to rectify that in just a few short weeks. Primarily known for their sparkling wines, J also produces a number of still single varietal wines, and they recently sent me a couple:
2013 J Vineyards Estate Grown Russian River Chardonnay: Retail $28. The nose is a bit muted but some lemon, oak, and chalk come through. On the palate, more of a big style Chard with prominent oak and well-balanced acidity. This wine starts off a bit pushy, but eventually mellows quite a bit and by the end of the bottle, I was looking for more. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2013 J Vineyards Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: Retail $40. I have had some experience with J Vineyards sparkling wines, but not nearly as much with the still wines. After a bit of time in the glass, this comes to life with Bing cherry and a hint of mint. On the palate, really nice fruit and balanced acidity. This is one of the best Pinots I have had thus far this year. Outstanding. I can’t wait to visit the winery this Spring…. 91-93 Points.
Be sure to check out the “Wineries” section in the menu and let me know what you think!